Get ready for a taste explosion with our Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad recipe! While the al dente pasta provides the base, the true stars of the dish are the crispy bacon, creamy ranch, and fresh veggies that complement it perfectly. This recipe is ideal for any occasion - whether it's a picnic, potluck, or an intimate family dinner.
If you are ready to bite into a dish that is creamy, crunchy, and packed with flavor, you are going to love this ranch pasta salad.
This recipe combines the delightful crunch of fresh vegetables, the indulgent savoriness of bacon, and the tangy creaminess of ranch dressing.
It's a symphony of textures and tastes that creates a salad far from ordinary.
The beauty of this pasta bacon ranch salad lies not just in its taste but also in its simplicity.
You don't need to be an experienced chef to whip up this crowd-pleaser. With ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, freezer, and fridge, this salad comes together quickly, making it an ideal choice for last-minute potlucks or a quick family dinner.
But don't let the simplicity of this bacon pasta ranch salad fool you.
The combination of flavors in this salad is anything but basic. The smoky, savory bacon pairs perfectly with the cool, tangy ranch.
Add in the fresh, crisp veggies and perfectly cooked pasta, and you've got a dish that's sure to impress at any gathering.
Whether you're a seasoned home cook or a beginner in the kitchen, this pasta salad with ranch dressing is a recipe you'll find yourself coming back to time and again.
- Pasta: I used cavatappi pasta, but any short pasta will work for this creamy ranch pasta salad.
- Bacon: Cooked and diced bacon is the star of this recipe. You can use any type of bacon - pork, beef, and turkey bacon all work.
- Cheese: I like sharp or extra sharp cheddar for an extra punch of flavor.
- Tomatoes: Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, add a splash of color and sweetness.
- Carrots: Shredded carrots are the perfect way to sneak in some extra crunch. You can buy pre-shredded to save time.
- Peas: Frozen baby peas, thawed and rinsed, bring a burst of freshness to the dish. If you can find fresh peas, blanch them before adding them to the pasta salad. The extra effort will be worth it.
- Sour cream & Mayonnaise: These two ingredients combine into an irresistible creamy base for our dressing.
- Ranch seasoning: This classic seasoning blend adds an unmistakable ranch flavor to the mix. You can buy ranch seasoning or use my homemade ranch seasoning.
- Milk: To thin out the dressing and give it a silky texture.
- Vinegar: Cider vinegar adds a bright, acidic flavor to our ranch dressing.
- Garlic: A pinch of minced garlic rounds out the flavor profile and helps balance all of the other flavors.
- Salt & pepper: To taste!
Step by Step
For the full recipe with measurements, see the recipe card at the end of the post.
First, start by cooking the pasta according to the package directions. Once cooked, rinse with cold water and transfer to a bowl.
Finally, refrigerate this easy ranch pasta salad for an hour so that all of those flavors can combine into one delicious dish!
Tips and Tricks
- Choose the Right Pasta: Opt for pasta shapes that have plenty of nooks and crannies to hold onto the dressing, such as fusilli, cavatappi, penne, farfalle, or tri color rotini pasta.
- Cook Pasta Al Dente: Slightly undercook your pasta. It will continue to soften as it absorbs the dressing, helping to prevent a mushy salad.
- Rinse Pasta After Cooking: To stop the cooking process and cool it down, rinse your pasta under cold water after boiling. This also removes excess starch that can make your salad gummy.
- Season Your Pasta Water: Add salt to your pasta water. This is your chance to season the pasta itself, which can elevate the overall flavor of your salad.
- Chill Before Serving: Let your pasta salad chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together.
- Add Fresh Ingredients Last: If you're using fresh herbs or ingredients that wilt easily, add them just before serving to keep them fresh and vibrant.
- Taste and Adjust Before Serving: After chilling, taste your salad. You might need to add more dressing or seasoning, as pasta can absorb a lot, and flavors can dull when chilled.
- Add More Protein: To turn the perfect side dish into a meal, add 2 cups of cooked diced chicken breast or rotisserie chicken. Now you have a delicious chicken ranch pasta salad.
How do you keep pasta salad from getting mushy?
The best way to prevent a mushy pasta salad is to slightly undercook the pasta, as well as rinse it with cold water before mixing it in. This will help stop the cooking process and cool down the pasta so that it doesn't get too soft. Additionally, make sure not to overmix or over-dress your ingredients.
Can you make pasta salad ahead of time?
Yes! In fact, this is actually recommended – letting your pasta salad chill in the fridge for an hour or two allows all of those delicious flavors to come together. Just be sure to check your seasoning levels again just before serving and adjust if needed! You can also store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
What other vegetables can you add to pasta salad?
The possibilities are endless! Consider adding roasted peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, green onions or avocado for a boost of flavor and texture. Fresh herbs like parsley, chives, and dill also make great additions.
You can also switch out the peas for another veggie – edamame, corn, or steamed broccoli would all be great options.
Have fun experimenting with different flavors and textures!
As an amazon associate, I earn from qualifying sales
- Large Pot
More Pasta Salad Recipes to Try
- For a taste of Italy, try the Caprese Pasta Salad, a beautiful blend of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil tossed with a tangy balsamic dressing.
- Experience the flavors of the Mediterranean with our Tuscan Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad, packed with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and goat cheese in a zesty dressing.
- Embrace the freshness of the season with our Spring Pasta Salad, featuring crisp radishes, sweet peas, and tender pasta tossed in a vinaigrette.
- For a healthful twist, go for the Quinoa Pasta Salad, a hearty mix of gluten-free quinoa pasta, colorful veggies, and protein-packed chickpeas dressed in a vibrant vinaigrette.
20-Minute Creamy Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces dried cavatappi pasta
- 12 ounces sliced bacon cooked and diced
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup frozen baby peas thawed and rinsed
Homemade Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons ranch seasoning
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Transfer to a bowl, and toss with the bacon, cheese, tomatoes, carrots, and baby peas.
- While the pasta is cooking, Stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, milk, ranch seasoning, cider vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Toss with pasta salad with the dressing, and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to combine.